Do we really know the ones we love? What if our feelings weren’t real, but implanted? Could we ever still love someone after discovering everything was a lie? Captcha, a short film noir thriller asks these questions as director Edward Tracy (Facejacker, Fonejacker) takes the audience to a steampunk 1940s London and a tale of love and spies, devotion, deception and double crosses.
Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who, Broadchurch) plays meek scientist Mel Bradford engaged by MI5’s weapons research division. He and his secrets are targeted by the beautiful spy Katya played by Amy Beth Hayes (Mr Selfridge, Lilyhammer).
Effortlessly seducing him with her own skills, Katya implants Mel with a mechanical Cupid’s arrow, a device designed to make him fall in love with her completely. Once under her control she becomes his wife and for two years feeds his secrets back to her employer until the order is given that the mission is over, that Mel is to be terminated. She then has to decide, can she walk away? Can she let this man die, or while he was under her spell, did she fall under his?
Tracy has created a compelling world, making great use of the visual inspiration of the digital mattes designed by Peter Amachree (John Carter, World War Z). Brought to life by The Mill, the video effects studio behind Gladiator, these stunning images create an arresting vision of London. Filmed mostly with green screen, great attention has been paid to bring these backdrops together to create a rich world for the characters to inhabit.
Those involved are justifiably proud of the computer generated visuals they have created, however some of the smaller touches really add to the steampunk vision such as the large mobile phone with a rotary dial that Katya uses, or the physical ‘spike’ that inserts and removes the love implant, the device inhabiting the nightmarish space somewhere between a steampunk hypodermic needle and a mechanical spider.
In the short running time Darvill and Hayes are charismatic leads who draw the viewer in; despite the question over the validity of their emotional attachment the audience genuinely wants to know what happens to these people when the curtain falls.
A good supporting cast including Nigel Lindsay (The Tunnel) as Katya’s backup agent do well to strengthen the scenes, the increasingly insistent voice on the telephone of Katya’s unseen puppet master Rosa the unmistakable Zoë Wanamaker (Gormenghast, Doctor Who) who warns her “There’s no room for tearful goodbyes in this business.”
Already having been nominated for several awards and winning Best International Film at the Sci-Fi Film Festival, work is already underway to transform Captcha into a full feature, and it is to be hoped that the existing cast and crew remain and are given the same opportunity to recreate and expand what has clearly been a labour oflove… or have we just been conditioned to believe so?